Recalling Names…

Some people’s names are easier for me to remember than others’.

Recently I met a student from Finland who’s name is Suvi.  Oh my goodness I could not understand just how much difficulty I had remembering it.

Not only from one week to the next but several times during the same evening!

I just didn’t have a point of reference for her name.

I had a lot of trouble too with a friend from Holland who is in my International group.  I don’t even want to admit how many months it was before I could start using her name when I greeted her or said goodbye.  In the end she said,

“Mar, like Marie, and Lise like Elise.  Marlies.”

Finally with Suvi’s name I overheard her spell it to someone who was having the same problem as me.

Now she’s returned to Sweden, where she’s a medical student, and the next time I see her…well, hopefully I won’t struggle so much!

Moving to Footlights meant I was being introduced to scores of strangers at every turn.

My head was swirling with names I’d never be able to match with a face, at least not for several encounters.  And, as is the wont with these social clubs and groups, not everyone shows up every month so it could be weeks before I was re-introduced to Bruni or Elba or the little Chinese lady named Grace.

Church was marginally easier, I had a typed directory to help me (no pictures) and I wrote notes when I met a new couple to jog my memory…after I’d chatted with them again, and again over coffee or before Sunday school.

At school I didn’t even try to memorize all my students’ names which took the pressure off for me,

“If I remember your name it’s because you distinguished yourself in one way or another…”  I said looking out over the sea of fifteen somewhat familiar faces, “good or bad,” I added with a smile.

Our weekly pizza get-together is easier but I never thought I’d say this…a lot of the men began to look alike so I muddle their names…it must be the Hawaiian shirts they all insist on wearing, just because…

“Most of them are named Jim,” we joke (yes I’m not the only one who struggles) because one night there were three or four of them!

Usually I have to hang a name on something to remind me, Kathleen is easy because that was my mother’s name.

Anne, Jane and Sarah are familiar because they are cousins’ names or middle names.

Edna, Megan, Siobhan and Agnes are old fashioned family names and I can make a connection to the new person I’m meeting.

Any ‘V’ name comes easily because invariably I’ve been mistakenly called Victoria, Valerie or Vera instead of my given name and wonder if they have the same problem?

I’ve not met another Vivienne until this weekend at the winery.  She was a young girl aged 8,

“I’m going into 3rd grade,” she told me proudly.

“Do you spell your name the same way I do?” I asked tapping my name badge.

She shook her head.

“Well, how do you spell your name then?”

“V-i-v-i-a-n.”  My usual response to that is, ‘that’s the boy’s spelling’ but I bit my tongue.

“Do you let people shorten your name?”  I asked her.

“Yes,” she said, “I’m called Viv and Vivvy.”

“I won’t let anyone shorten my name.”

“Why not?”

“I just liked my full name, Vivienne.  My daughter calls me Viv because she got tired of calling me Mum and having half the mall turn in her direction!  So now I’m nicknamed MamaViv by all my children.”

“Do you want to know my nickname?” she asked.

“Yes,” I said.


“Let me guess, it’s because you’re so quiet?!”

She grinned.  As long as she wears the same dress next time I’ll have no trouble recalling her name.

Connections and points of reference are important to others too I found out while at Jazzercise once.   A woman introduced herself and held out her hand,

“I’m Vivienne,” I said awkwardly shaking it while stretching.

“Oh, I have a fish named Vivienne. ”



I thought she was going to say a grandmother, or a friend but a fish!?

I didn’t quite know how to respond so I went back to my warm ups without asking her how she spelled her fish’s name.

Share this:

No comments so far!

Leave a Comment